Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

I’ve just found myself in the position where I am having to learn to play two different settings of a particular tune within the next week or so.
One is for a concert next month while the other is to play with a "day group" which meets on a weekly basis.

There are some quite distinct differences between the two settings and neither of them are quite like what I’d expect to hear "down the pub" although(admittedly) it’s not a tune which I’ve ever learned completely off by heart as such.

I’m wondering if others feel that learning more than one setting of a tune, perhaps even multiple settings, can be confusing and possible even counter productive? Certainly, I feel reluctant to fully absorb an unfamiliar setting of a tune or one with which I’m not comfortable, i.e so that I can play it "off by heart".
Fortunately, this isn’t necessary as I can just "play off the dots" and in this instance, at least, conveniently forget about what I’ve played thereafter. :-)
Normally, I wouldn’t want to take that approach though.
Another possibilty might be to imagine them as two(or more) different tunes and fully learn them separately from each other but this seems like unnecessary work if I’d rather just stick to my preferred version.

Now, normally, I tend to stick to one particular setting or version of a tune unless I encounter something which I regard as improvement. Of course, if it gets played slightly differently within a session, I will adapt my playing for the occasion but I won’t necessarily make an effort to relearn the tune unless I realise that I’ve obviously gone wrong somewhere. If I’m unable to "go with the flow" temporarily then I just don’t have to play on that occasion.

So, basically, I’m wondering how most of you would deal with such a situation?
I also realise that the prevailing view(as far as this forum is concerned) will probably be not to learn tunes from "the dots" in the first place and that the "correct" setting is the one which is "accepted" by your musical mates in the session at that particular time.
There may be differing opinions, of course.
;-)

Re: Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

It’s a nice question! I’ve encountered a similar dilemma previously. I suppose it’s a ‘horses for courses’ thing and perhpaps you’ll end up, as I did, playing a version that you like the best most of the time (whether at home or out on yer onesies when nobody else knows it) and the ‘learned’ version when you have to and the version for ‘down the pub’. Like the tunes themselves - variation keeps it interesting.

Re: Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

Interesting,

I’ve just had a similar experience with these.

http://www.thesession.org/tunes/11237

and

http://www.thesession.org/tunes/8973

I see they are not listed under quite the same title but I believe they are just different versions of the same tune.

Having said that, the version I have ended up playing is different to both of them!

Sometimes it’s a real advantage not to play with other people, you can sort out a version that best pleases yourself and thereby do away with the potential confusion.

I suppose some versions suit one instrument rather than another but ultimately its the version that most pleases me that I will adopt.

Re: Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

For certain tunes It has always been like that as far back as I can remember - Often have to ask the question before we start - What version of ‘so & so’ are we playing or how many parts are we playing?
A few tunes that come to mind:
The Pipe on the Hob
Boil the Breakfast Early
The Frost is all over
The Mason’s Apron
Tell her I am, etc etc

Re: Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

I actually make a pretty significant point of learning multiple settings of tunes. The best thing to do, I think, is to find a good categorization system. It may seem somewhat limiting, but let’s say I play at least two settings of Rolling in the Ryegrass (I do). I recall the more unique setting, and keep it separate, by always referring to it as "Padraig o’Keeffe’s Rolling in the Ryegrass," and by generally playing it with other Sliabh Luachra tunes, or tunes I associate with Padraig or Denis Murphy or Julia Clifford. That way it sort of stays compartmentalized, rather than just floating around my brain.

Good on you for learning multiple settings, though. There are tons of pretty settings of tunes that have died out for want of playing.
—Dan

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Re: Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

There are quite a few tunes out there with "variations" so divergent that they might as well be different tunes. I don’t find it a big deal, or all that confusing, to have different versions of the same or similar tunes. As Free Reed said, just make sure that you and whoever you’re playing with agree on the version, preferably before you start playing it.

Re: Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

A multiplicity of settings is natural in a tradition that’s largely aural and where the passing of tunes is a game of "Chinese whispers" that spans generations and continents. It’s a good part of the fun and adventure of this music—you never know just what to expect when a visitor comes to your session or you visit another session. It compels us to listen and pay attention to what our session mates are playing ("I wonder what they do with this one?") instead of burrowing into our own head (i.e., "Right, I know this one, and this is how it goes").

I suspect this has long been a part of this music. I wonder if it’s become more prevalent with the avalanche of recordings, so many with fresh arrangements of old stalwarts.

I used to keep settings categorized as Danjo describes, but over the years of repetition of all the various settings I found I didn’t need to be so deliberate about it—the differences are clear and well sorted simply by the distinct notes and phrases themselves. Though I can usually dredge up some attribution for one setting or the other.

It also helps to know or be able to play on the spot many tunes in a variety of keys and modes.

To add to Free Reed’s list, off the top of my head:

Black-Haired Lass (in Ador and Amix)
Trip to Durrow (AABBCC or AABB)
Toss the Feathers in Dmix (Clare setting or the other)
I Buried My Wife and Danced on Her Grave (c nats or c sharps in the B part)
Morning Dew (the "old" C part or the allegedly more recent scale-based runs)
Garrett Barry’s jig (f nats vs. f sharps in the B part)
Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine (many different settings, particularly in the B part)
Kid on the Mountain (5, 6, or 7 parts, your call)
The Sunset (with or without f nats in the B part)
Farewell to Milltown (Bobby Casey’s that’s more major in the B part, or stay minor)

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Re: Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

I "had" to learn two B parts for the Silver Spire, as the difference in the runs between my session at home and my session at university amounts to a single step, all the way. It took me a while to figure out why it sounded so odd!

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Re: Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

You could write/print out the alternate settings for those special occasions. This would be valuable for me if I was playing on a regular basis with just the one other melody player, but that doesn’t seem to happen. With more than 2 other musos no one seems to be able to hear my weird settings anyway.

I wonder if there are still regional settings? Some session run by a box player who only learns by ear and is adamant about his/her setting could in theory impose a version with subtle differences from the norm. The norm is usually straight out of O’Neill’s with older tunes, too. One of the fascinating things about recordings of older players is the little variants from that norm you often hear, like O’Keefe’s Ryegrass that Danjo mentions. Or the Connaughtman’s Rambles, Nelidh Boyle played the 2nd part fbb faa fbb afe. Someone (Tommy Potts, I think) once remarked how striking something like that is to hear after years of listening to the same old same old.

Re: Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

Thank goodness the norm where I live isn’t O’Neill’s….

Kevin, last summer I heard distinct regional differences in just a week of traveling between sessions in east and west Co. Galway, and also between Galway and Clare. And Donegal still holds its own. There may be a more widespread "pan-Irish" style, but it hasn’t yet erased all traces of regional and community approaches to the music.

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Re: Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

You more or less summed it up in your penultimate paragraph, as far as I’m concerned. Occasionally I’ll come across a version of a tune that completely changes my appreciation of it, for example Pigeon on the Gate played in D by Davy Spillane , and this magic version of Paddy Fahey’s Jig by Evelyn Healey, which I’ve just found, and will be learning instanta —

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYlrreiBsYY&feature=related


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Trip to Durrow (AABBCC or AABB) …. or **AABCBC**

Dear Will,
Around Kilshanny, Co Clare (and anywhere else I’ve played it), The Trip to Durrow has always been AABCBC. It’s pretty unusual for a three-part reel but I think it makes the tune more interesting. Are you unfamiliar with that setting?

Re: Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

I think of The Trip to Durrow as AABB. It’s the same as the version you’re thinking of, David. It’s just that I think of that ‘BC’ section as one long B part.

Re: Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

What ethical said.

I learned Trip to Durrow from a private recording of an old Irish melodeon player. He played it AABBCC. Many people play it AABB, thinking of the B and C parts as one part. But I prefer it the other way. It was gratifying last fall to play it with Brian Conway and have it just naturally come out AABBCC. Brian cited a few older players who did it that way and it’s his preference as well.

Of course, if someone else starts it when I’m visiting a session, I follow their lead, regardless.

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Re: Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

Somebody came in to the Sandy Bells session yesterday and played her version of "The Hunt". At least, I think it was that. She didn’t have a name for it and was a bit vague about where she learned it. I first learned it from "Whistle and Sing" and the way I’ve heard other people play it since has not been all that different from my interpretation of those dots, i.e. more or less this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpbDG5Bm1YI


But this one was so different in the second part I couldn’t figure it out at all. Anyone know where that might have come from?

Re: Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

"I’m wondering if others feel that learning more than one setting of a tune, perhaps even multiple settings, can be confusing and possible even counter productive?"

You’re thinking about it all wrong. Like anything else you practice, in time it becomes really easy to learn and remember alternate settings of tunes. It’s really handy to be able to shift settings comfortably depending on who you’re playing with.

Re: Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

"in time it becomes really easy to learn and remember alternate settings of tunes"

I actually know alternate settings of quite a few tunes although, in each case, there’s usually one which I favour over the others and would prefer to play to choice.

The issue here(for me) is that I’m having to learn to play more than one version of a tune with which I hadn’t been previously very familiar before(I had heard and maybe run through it a couple of times in the past) within the space of two or three weeks. Ideally, I would have one version "under my belt" before tackling another.

Actually, I’ve now got a very good grasp of one of them and I can manage the other one OK if I use "the dots". However, I’ve got to concentrate quite so as not to revert to the other tune which I now know better.

After a day or two of thought and reading some of the responses here, the answer is probably to think of them as separate tunes.
Quite often, different settings may have different titles, in any case. Or, as suggested, I might think of it as "so and so’s version", "as played by" or by the locality etc.

Re: Learning or playing multiple settings of a tune(s)

There perhaps isn’t a single tune I’ve ever learned before I started attendending local sessions a few years ago, that’s the same version as the local session plays. So I have multiple versions of just about every tune I play.

The most dramatic was the utterly different Gold Ring which I learned back in the 1970s and played for years. The local session version (which agrees with the version The Chieftans recorded) is completely different, in the number and ordering of parts, and of the nature of the parts themselves.

It doesn’t bother me much, because my first teacher, back in the 70s, had me learn multiple versions from the start. He said "it’s better to learn ten ways to play one tune than to learn ten tunes" and that’s how I was taught.